Louis Riel and his followers were quite persistent in their resistance of a Canadian takeover of the west. Riel was born of part-Indian parentage and was raised in Red River (the colony that Riel was trying to protect from being taken over). He returned to his homeland to help defend and protect his people from the threat of the looming invasion from Canada.
Prime Minister John A. Macdonald had a good understanding of what was going on in Red River and responded to the situation. However he wasn’t always tactful in his responses. He let his opinions shine through and his feelings about Riel and the situation as a whole were made clear.
When Macdonald speaks of the Metis he fails to recognize them by their title. Instead he repeatedly refers to them as “half-breeds”. It could be deemed as an insult to be called a “half-breed” because some may insinuate that his meaning stems from a disbelief that the Metis could be considered whole because parents of the same background didn’t breed them.
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It’s clear that Macdonald did not understand where the Metis were coming from which is why he continued to recruit other people to go in and deal with Riel. “We intend to send up Chas. de Salaberry, who was up there before. He understands the half-breeds thoroughly…”
One very noticeable insult spewed towards the Metis by Macdonald was when he said, “we must possess our souls in patience and deal with these refractory people as best we may.” By using the term “refractory” he is saying that he deems Riel’s followers as troublesome and wayward.
Macdonald doesn’t show much respect to anyone throughout his address. He makes a brief response towards his opinion on the leadership of the Canadians living in the Red River area and simply states that, “These French half-breeds…greatly dislike Schultz…” It seems as if Macdonald holds no respect for Schultz who was the leader for those Canadians who resided in Red River. The Metis disliked Schultz and therefore any power Schultz may have had was diminished since he wasn’t highly respected. Macdonald basically sees that there is a form of control with the Metis since Riel is seen as their leader. It was probably viewed as an embarrassment when a person was sent in from Macdonald’s side to help resolve problems and came out empty handed. The Canadians repeatedly attempted to solve problems but consistently failed.
In fact, Macdonald shows frustration with all the failed attempts to persuade Riel and his followers. Either people are being put under Riel’s spell of friendliness (as was Snow and Dennis) or they don’t support Macdonald’s hopes (the priests from New France). Macdonald feels that they are in a rut. George Etienne Cartier who worked with the government caused more setbacks when he “snubbed Bishop Tache.” It was evident that the Bishop was irritated by these actions and Cartier in turn never even bothered to apologize.
Finally Macdonald mentions that Chas. de Salaberry and the very Reverend Mr. Thiboult were to be the next recruits sent to deal with Riel. Macdonald may have seen their French-Canadian background as an advantage to help sway Riel since the Metis population was heavily French speaking. Besides the benefit of these two men being French, there was also an upside because they were both highly respected.
The second article recounts Riel’s explanation of the Metis’s actions. The speaker of this article mentions the motivation behind the Metis; one being Louis Riel who constantly supported them and therefore made the Metis believe that they deserved a lot if they were to agree with Confederation. In turn, their identity and independence motivated the Metis people. Some who viewed these terms may have believed that the Metis were asking for a lot whereas the Metis believed that they were just exercising their power as a people.
Finally, the third article comes from the voice of the people from Red River in which they thoroughly explain what it is they wanted from Ottawa. Their “List of Rights” in the negotiation process was written in a strong voice with the intention of getting everything that they asked for.
Their terms make it appear as if the Red River citizens were asking for more than other provinces. Riel and his followers didn’t want to have any part of the problems that other Canadians had to deal with. For example, the terms stated that they didn’t want to pay taxes, they didn’t want anything to do with the debt, and they also asked for an expensive transportation system. It is also believed that they asked for local control when the government was centralized in Ottawa.
Relations of the various groups within the colony were characterized as willing to co-operate with one another. They insisted that they all receive fair representation and that they all have the right to vote. Sustaining the French-English language was also extremely important. “Whereas the French and English-speaking people of Assinboia are so equally divided as to number, yet so united in their interests and so connected by commerce, family connections, and other political and social relations, that is has happily been found impossible to bring them into hostile collision…”
It doesn’t appear that Manitoba would exert much local control since they were hardly recognized in the statement. Already a province in it’s own right some Manitobans felt a sense of betrayal because the terms proposed that the Metis would acquire positions on land and secure tenure of river lots already occupied.
The Metis were probably aware that they were asking for a lot and probably did not expect to have all of their requests met. In essence all they really wanted was to be recognized as their own people, therefore having their own province to live in. They expected to be treated equally since they knew some people didn’t see them as equals since they were “half-breeds.” With Riel as the leader one thing was sure, the Metis wouldn’t go down without a fight and repeated negotiations.
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